Background to the building
Background to the Building of Central Hall Westminster
In 1898 the Wesleyan Methodist Church set up the 20th Century Fund to mark the centenary of John Wesley's death (1703-1791). The aim of the fund was to raise '1 million guineas from 1 million Methodists'. Regardless of wealth, each donor was only allowed to donate one guinea. This was to finance a 'great push forward of Wesleyan Methodism'. The fund closed in 1904 having raised 1,024,501 guineas (£1,075,727).
£250,000 of this money was allocated to the building of a 'monumental Memorial Hall' that would not only house a worshipping congregation and the headquarters of the then Wesleyan Methodist Church but would also be a meeting place for all people, regardless of religious persuasion. It was also to be of 'great service for conferences on religious, educational, scientific, philanthropic and social questions'. This building opened in 1912 and is now known as Central Hall Westminster.
The 50 volume leather-bound Historic Roll, containing the names of all those who donated to the 20th Century Fund, is located adjacent to the Visitor Services Desk and visitors are invited to come to see the names of their ancestors who contributed to the building of this great monument.
Historic Events at Central Hall Westminster
Central Hall Westminster has played host to a number of events of national and international importance over the years.
The Suffragettes, campaigning for the vote for women, met at Central Hall Westminster in 1914, Mahatma Gandhi spoke in the Lecture Hall in 1932, and General de Gaulle founded the free French in the early 1940's.
Perhaps most famously, Central Hall was the chosen venue for the very first General Assembly of the newly formed United Nations, in 1946 - a time that saw the appointment of the first Secretary General, along with the creation of the Security Council and the International Court of Justice. 51 member countries sent delegations and Prime Minister Clement Attlee welcomed the UN to ‘this ancient home of liberty and order’.
Other famous speakers here have been Winston Churchill who addressed the Conservative Party Conference in the Great Hall in 1945, Dr Boutros Boutros-Ghali and the Prince of Wales. We often welcome leading politicians and governmental bodies through our doors, and we sponsor the annual Parliamentary Covenant Service where members across the political parties come together in worship.
Central hall Westminster was also used for feature films, such "Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde" starring Michael Caine, as well as for promotional material, such as Marks and Spencer's marketing campaign for their Life Assurance Policy.
From 1932-2000 Methodist Central Hall Westminster also served as the main headquarters of the Methodist Church, housing such departments as: the Methodist Relief and Development Fund, Interfaith Relations, Racial Justice, International and Environmental Affairs, Home Missions and Prison Chaplaincy.
Many revered preachers have ministered at Methodist Central Hall. The most famous of whom is Dr. William Edwin Sangster. Sangster served here between 1939 and 1955, and during World War II he managed a 4-year air raid shelter in our basement.
More recently, Central Hall has hosted the Public Enquiries for the Ladbroke Grove and the Marchioness disasters and over the years has welcomed British Prime Ministers, members of the Royal Family and other famous faces.